The Portryal of American Dream in “The Great Gatsby” Free Essay Example

April 13, 2022 by Essay Writer


Basically American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals from democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, gained through hard labor in a society with few barriers. In the novel The Great Gatsby, the novelist has limned the realm of two fictional American towns West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922.

It shows how young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession with the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. Through this novel F.Scott Fitzerald explores the themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval and excess, creating a picture of the Roaring Twenties that has been portrayed as a cautionary story regarding American dream.


The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American novelist Francis Scott Key Fitzerald (September 24, 1896- December 21, 1940).

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His novels depicted the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age. He is considered a prominent member of “Lost Generation” of the 1920’s and today he is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of 20 century. In his novel The Great Gatsby he has left no stone unturned to depict the darker side of so called American Dream.


In the novel the tragedy of American dream is apparently visible. Nick observes Gatsby standing alone on his dock before he formally meets them. Gatsby is stretching his arms toward the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.

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For Gatsby, this light represents Daisy, his lost love; in the wider context of the novel and its argument about the American Dream, the green light can also be seen as symbolizing money, success and the past. The inaccessibility of the green light is an important element of its symbolism.

“Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge, I thought anything at all… Even Gatsby could happen without any particular wonder.”
Above quoted lines comes as Nick and Gatsby drive into New York City for lunch. Gatsby has just revealed to Nick the mostly false story of his life as the son of wealthy family in the Midwest and a wealthy young man in Europe, which Nick has a hard time believing. Gatsby’s ability to achieve seems infinite to Nick, especially in the large and liberated City of New York. Above mentioned quote also suggests that America in general, and New York City in particular are essential to Gatsby’s success. Nick has implied that becoming successful without having a verified connection to a wealthy family is only possible in the United States of America.

Gatsby was born into a poor family but with his obstinacy and tenacity came to obtain extravagant wealth through his work with Dan Cody, a millionaire. Gatsby’s desire for wealth was driven by his dream for love of Daisy Buchanan. Although Gatsby was able to acquire tremendous wealth, he never acquired Daisy’s love in the end. In fact, his dream for Daisy is what eventually led to his destruction. Through this novel, Fitzerald conveys that American dream cannot be fully attained because those who believe in it are constantly striving for something better than themselves. He bespeaks that it is dangerous for one to reach for something more than what is given and expresses the idea that if people become so involved in materialistic items, they are diametrically not guaranteed happiness. Gatsby’s desire to achieve more than what he had ultimately led to his downfall, demonstrating that unlimited success is not possible, as illustrated in the stock market crash preceding the Great Depression. Undoubtedly Jay Gatsby is a clear embodiment or incorporation of the American dream , he was poor and rose to achieve a higher wealth and social status.

Nick explains:

“Gatsby’s parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people…for over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a calm digger and a salmon fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and a bed.” (98)

Although Gatsby started his life off poor, he was able to earn his way up to being rich by working with Dan Cody. His strong work ethic and ambition to achieve Daisy’s love served him well in attempting to banish his poverty stricken past life. The contrast between Gatsby’s lifestyle in the past and the present is demonstrated when Nick describes Gatsby’s mansion:

“a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of rawy ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.” (5)

However, the American Dream is the hope that anyone can earn success if they work hard enough in life. Gatsby’s passionate love for Daisy led him to achieve paramount wealth. In the sense of rising up social rank and obtaining financial success, Gatsby definitely achieved the American dream. Notwithstanding the wealth that Gatsby achieved, Fitzerald conveys that materialism of American Dream does not bring happiness. Every week, Gatsby hosted grand parties for hundreds of people:

“At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hons d’ oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys” (40)

Furthermore, Gatsby’s parties were filled with glamour and exemplified the recklessness of America during the Jazz Age. Guests who were never invited still came to indulge in the food, drinks and luxury of the party without ever meeting the host. Many of them only used Gatsby to enjoy his wealth and the luxury of American dream. When Nick was at Gatsby’s party, he heard rumours about Gatsby amongst his guests:

“He is a bootlegger. One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.” (66)
The gossip by party guests proves that Gatsby did not form any genuine relationship with the party guests. Gatsby was so lost on his dream of Daisy that he did not establish any true friendship until he met Nick. Fitzerald has beautifully depicted that being too focused on the American Dream can jeopardize one to live for the moment. He notes that it is always more important to embrace on things that has value than running after money, such as relationship and mental peace. Gatsby’s life became joyful and wonderful once he became friends with Nick and Daisy, not because of his luxurious materialistic life and power. Sadly notwithstanding hundreds of guests came to Gatsby’s weekly glamorous p[arties, only but Owl Eyes, came to pay their last respects to him at his funeral. Nick has described the tragic end of Jay Gatsby in the below quoted lines:

“At first I was surprised and confused; then as Gatsby lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak hour upon hour it grew upon me that I was responsible for the funeral because no one else was interested.” (172)

After the death of Gatsby, his generosity to the party guests was ignored and forgotten, exemplifying the insensitive and selfish society that the American Dream has produced. Fitzerald has conveyed a decline in society’s moral and is critical of the careless lifestyles of Americans continue to live this way, they will come to experience hardship or even destruction.


American Dream is the constant desire for something better, henceit is impossible to achieve in lifetime. In the pursuit of American dream Gatsby has sacrificed himself, he had no friends, no spiritual pleasure or peace. For instance – even after Daisy proclaims his love for him, Gatsby demands her to go even further to say that she never loved Tom:

“Just tell him the truth that you never loved Tom.” (132)

This explicitly demonstrates Gatsby’s continuous desire for something better. Once he achieved his desire of winning Daisy’s love, he already had a desire something more. Above instances show no matter how much they accomplish, there is always better to strive for in American Dream.

Work cited:

Fitzerald, F.Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1st ed. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.


Miller, The Fictional Technique of Scott Fitzerald (The Hague: Folcroft Library Editions, 1957) 83.


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